Fond Memories of Hitching

Hitchhiking is something that is simply not done these days, at least where I live, but back in the olden days of the 1970s, I used to hitch rides on a regular basis. Lots of us did, as a matter of fact. And I’m not aware of anyone I knew, or that they knew, hitching a ride to their death… or even to an assault.

Hitchhiking is something that is simply not done these days, at least where I live, but back in the olden days of the 1970s, I used to hitch rides on a regular basis. Lots of us did, as a matter of fact((Though the girls didn’t, and I think they were smart not to. They’d attract far more “No thanks” offers than us boys.)). And I’m not aware of anyone I knew, or that they knew, hitching a ride to their death… or even to an assault.

Hitchhiking was still fairly common in those days. It had begun long before, in the days when few people owned cars. That was a less tormented time of course, before we were trained to see strangers as roving monsters.

To hitch, you’d stand in a safe but visible place at the side of the road, then stick out your thumb and make yourself look harmless. You’d give the person who stopped a good looking over, then get in and go… or occasionally, not.

A typical roadside encounter went like this:

The car stops, and either the driver rolls down the window (not terribly common because a lot of windows had to be manually rolled down) or you open the door.

“Where you going?” asks the driver.

“Peterson and Pulaski,” you might say.

“Hop in” the driver says. “I’m going past there.”

“Thanks!” you say while climbing in.

Rarely did I fail to get ride within 10 minutes on a busy road. You were especially likely to get a quick ride on days when it was cold, snowy, or rainy.

Hippies were always great rides. They were as likely as not to offer you a smoke, but they really didn’t care if you said no. More than that, they were talkative and interesting, and if you were friendly they might go out of their way and take you directly to your destination.

And as I say, I never knew of anyone who had a dangerous ride. I’m sure it must have happened somewhere at some time – among millions of people it could hardly be otherwise – but it was certainly not common. What we learned – and my friends and I definitely compared our experiences – was that most people were fairly cool, if you gave them a chance.

And once we started driving more regularly, we were fairly likely to give people rides as well. We were judicious of course. If there was a large, questionable-looking guy hitching, we’d give him a ride only if there were two or three of us in the car, for example. But we regularly gave rides. In fact, we often slowed down when we saw someone standing in the rain or snow and asked if they needed a ride. And I still do that from time to time, even in the present state of paranoia.

And if you’d like to confront a shocking fact, consider this: Things were a lot more dangerous in my youth than they are today. Take a look:

I haven’t seen a hitchhiker in a long time now, which is kind of sad. People trusting and helping one another is a good thing. The reason hitching dried up, of course, is that people are bombarded by fear 24/7 these days. We weren’t nearly as traumatized “back in the day.”

And given that violent crime was significantly worse in the 1970s, the difference between then and now is pretty clearly attributable to dark propaganda.

More Importantly…

Far more important than crime stats is the fact that we learned at a fairly young age to work without a net.

Hitching required you to choose, to act, to judge quickly, to take responsibility for your own safety, and to hold a pallet of options open in your mind. It was to engage yourself fully with other human beings and even more importantly, with strangers.

And there were hurdles to get over. Not only were our parents unhappy about of us hitching, but cops could arrest you for it too. The legal underpinnings for those arrests were pretty shaky, but cops arrested teenagers whenever they liked back then (in some cases still), fearing nothing and with no consequences that I ever heard about.

And so we had to risk the wrath of our parents and the cops, on top of any other dangers.

Before I close, I want to mention a final benefit we gained from hitching. We learned how to trust and how to be trusted. I think those are very important lessons, and I fear that a lot of people miss them these days, under the reign of permanent fear.


Paul Rosenberg

Herberts Shouldn’t Wear Tie-Dye


The term “Herbert” referred to a stiff, rule-keeping bureaucrat.

Tie-dye was the clothing of hippies; it was made with bleach and strings.

Being old enough to remember how things were “back in the day,” I’m always half insulted to see very fine establishment types – people whose livelihoods rest on uncritical obedience – trying to align themselves with nonconformists they would have hurried away from back in that day.

Obedience was not cool back in the ’60s and ’70s. In fact, it was derided. Here’s a Beatles lyric that was sung as a condemnation:

Once upon a time there was a boy named Ted. And if his mother said, “Ted, be good,” he would.

Notwithstanding that I have a strong preference for well-behaved children, I think you get my point.

So when I saw some footage from the very presitigious Kennedy Center Honors, celebrating bluesman Buddy Guy, I recoiled. Here’s a still from it:


Here’s what went through my mind:

How would these suits and gowns have treated Buddy when he was working days as a janitor at Louisiana State University back in the 1950s? Or when he was performing in a lot of very unpretty clubs on the West Side of Chicago in the late ’50s?

Where were these very successful Herberts in the 1960s, when he was playing any juke joint he could to make ends meet? How many would have shown up at his club on Chicago’s East 43rd Street in the 1970s?

And how many of these people, I wondered (and you may too), would have sympathy for poor bluesmen if virtue signaling wasn’t involved?

Now, for just one more example, here’s another group of Herberts, at the same august event, honoring Led Zeppelin:


I’d love to see this group confronted with the boys of Led Zeppelin in, say, 1973. That would be a spectacle.

Worse than the 1950s

The 1950s are remembered as a time of abject conformity, and in some ways that was true. But today is actually worse. And the reason for it is simple:

Today’s conformity, every bit as bad as the 1950s, drapes itself in the garments of past radicals.

The tie-dyed, pot-smoking radicals of the 1960s are no longer any threat to the Herberts of the world. Mainly, they’ve been tamed and brought into the machine. But they did revolutionize the music scene, and by doing so, they taught advertisers how to abuse a youth culture. Because of that, images of past rebels became (and remain) commercially important.

That’s why our modern Herberts turn out to honor people they might have jailed back in the day.

The proof of this is to be found in examining how these people have treated today’s radicals, people like Ross Ulbricht and Julian Assange. And the verdict is stark: They have mercilessly abused them.

But my point today is not condemnation, even if it is deserved. Rather, I’d simply like the Herberts to go back to things they’re good at.

Herberts are great at fitting in, presenting proper appearances, and keeping up with the Joneses. They should stick to their strengths and leave radicalism to people who know how to do it.

And so, here’s what I’d like to tell the Herberts:

If your mother never yelled at you for tie-dying clothes in her sink… if you weren’t asked to leave “proper occasions”… if you didn’t habitually look out for cops… you really shouldn’t make a show of celebrating radicals. It’s glaringly obvious you’re not like them. We may be polite about it, but we’re not fooled.

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Paul Rosenberg